Today I am welcoming to the blog my good friend Julie Stilwell. Julie is an amazing seamstress, an embroiderer and smocker extraordinaire, and the editor of SAGANews and the SAGANews Blog. She was the pattern tester, and the reason July Flowers exists in the first place, and she is here to share her wonderful construction tips and ideas for stitching July Flowers! So here is Julie:
I was more than happy to help Lisa and test the July Flowers pattern for her, after all I sort of requested the pattern as I had asked if her May Garden pattern for knits would work using woven fabrics and the July Flowers is that pattern revised be able to do just that. I then asked if she would like me to write up some tips, tricks and ideas I had for making the dress to post on her blog, so here I am doing just that!
As a pattern tester I had to follow the directions exactly to make sure each and every step made sense and worked for someone who had not sewn this garment before. So, I found fabric in my stash to make both the smocked and un-smocked versions. I picked a light floral print for the smocked version and a bright pink patterned heavier cotton for the un-smocked version. It was the un-smocked version I made first as this required no pre-construction smocking.
On making the un-smocked dress I found a few things that, as a seamstress, I chose to do to make my version of the dress and also got myself thinking ahead as to what I might do the next time I made the dress. This blog post is to help and hopefully inspire you when making your version of the July Flowers dress!
As I used a heavier fabric for my dress I chose to use a lighter weight fabric as a bodice lining to cut down on bulk at the seams and also to stop any pattern shadowing through to the right side (which can be an issue particularly with a dark print or thinner fabric). For those same reasons I also cut the pockets from the same plain fabric.
Lisa gives directions for adding a couture touch of piping to the waist seam and even includes a pattern piece and directions for making the piping. I have a lot of pre-made bias in my stash (purchased in thrift/antique stores -the old cotton bias is wonderful to use and usually inexpensive) and I found some that worked with my dress. When using the pre-made bias to make piping you need to press the folded seam allowance open to create a flat strip.
You then proceed to make the bias the way Lisa describes in her directions, but I actually use a 5 groove pintuck foot to make my bias and use my needle position to get close to the piping cord. Making the piping I use the centre needle position and the first groove on the left side of the foot to help guide the cord along.
When I attach the piping to the right side of the bodice I move the needle position one to the left, getting a little closer to the cord. Then when attaching the bodice to the skirt I move the needle one more position to the left making the stitches snug to the cording. I use the stitching from the previous step to help guide me and still use the pintuck presser foot.
Piping added, showing the needle position was moved.
My thoughts were racing ahead at this point as you could also take that couture step a little further and add piping to the neckline and maybe the armhole edges. If piping the neck, you would add the piping to the main fabric on the seam line, starting at the centre front and working to the back edge (using the pintuck foot and needle position as described above) and then working the other direction (remember to set the needle position to the other side to get closer to the cord). Once the piping is in place, pull ½ inch of the cording free at each end and cut off to reduce the bulk in the seam.
Then you would place the lining on top and machine in place with the main fabric facing upward so you can follow the stitches from the previous step.
If piping the armhole, you would machine the piping to the main fabric armhole edge and proceed as in Lisa’s directions. Talking of stitching the bodice and lining together, another trick I use is that I stitch the back edge first from the bottom to the neck edge completely to the top. I then lift the presser foot, pivot the fabric, pull the threads a little to have some ‘give’ and then start at the back edge and stitch around the neck to the other back edge. I then lift the presser foot, pull the threads to have some ‘give’ and start at the top of the back neck edge and stitch down the back bodice. I find this gives a sharper corner and makes a nicer point when the garment is trimmed, turned and pressed.
Another tip at this point is that when you are understitching the neckline, use your needle position to help you. I centre the presser foot on the seam line and move the needle position one over to understitch the lining and seam allowances.
On working the first test dress armhole I followed Lisa’s directions exactly, starting and stopping ½ inch from each edge. I then completed the side seams as directed. On the second dress I actually stitched from edge to edge without securing the thread at either end. I then trimmed and pressed the armhole as directed. Then I unpicked the stitches at each edge to give me the ½ inch seam allowance and went on the make the side seams as directed. I found that this gave a really neat ‘V’ and made it easier to stitch this seam.
When following Lisa’s directions to position the fabric to machine the armhole, I found it easier to position the fabric with the side at the bottom and roll towards the top.
And then pin the lining in place as directed.
Here is the pinned armhole.
I hope you enjoyed Julie's designs ideas as well as her tips and hints for stitching the bodice. She will be back next week with some more ideas on ways to embellish July Flowers as well as some additional construction tips! July Flowers is available as a PDF Digital Pattern, Paper Pattern, and a Gathered or Smocked Kit. Happy Stitching!